Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Bradley Hays




NCAA, student, sports, antitrust, court


Courts have historically allowed the NCAA to impose restrictions on student-athlete compensation in order to preserve the organization’s bedrock principles of amateurism and education. Recently, however, O’Bannon v. NCAA (2014) held that the NCAA’s restriction on compensating student-athletes for the use of their publicity violated antitrust law. Subsequently, the O’Bannon decision may produce a substantial, long-term legal impact on the future of amateurism and licensing in the NCAA. This thesis argues that legal change occurred in O’Bannon v. NCAA, because certain cultural conditions like the growing profitability of the NCAA, the media’s increasing criticism of NCAA, and antitrust victories against the NCAA have provided O’Bannon with the opportunity to alter the legal understanding of NCAA amateurism rules and the collegiate licensing market. To understand this cultural construction of legality in O’Bannon, this thesis analyzes source material from different contexts in which culture influences O’Bannon, including the legal context and the media context. The legal context of culture produced legal resources necessary for legitimated change in O’Bannon. The pro-O’Bannon media coverage created an environment receptive to the claims of the O’Bannon complaint. These contexts both provided meaning and legitimacy to the legal ideas presented in the case.